History of Avoca, NY
From: Landmarks of Steuben County, New York
Edited by: Hon. Harlo Hakes
Assisted By: L. C. Aldrich and Others
D. Mason & Company, Publishers,
Syracuse, New York, 1896

AVOCA. - On the 12th of April, 1843, the towns of Bath, Cohocton, Howard and Wheeler surrendered portions of their territory to a new formation by the name of Avoca; and so called, it is said, in allusion either to Moore's poem "Sweet Vale of Avoca," or "Meeting of the Waters." However, to the pioneers this locality was known as Buchanan, from the fact that William Buchanan was the first settler in the region. The locality also bore the designation of "Eight Mile Tree," being eight miles distant west from the county seat, from which point all early reckonings were made.

Speaking briefly of the natural features of the town, the statement may be made that Avoca is to be numbered among the hilly divisions of the county, a few of the summits reaching a height of nearly 50o feet. Nearly north and south across the town runs the Conhocton, which, with its principal tributaries, Twelve Mile, Ten Mile and Niel's Creeks, form beautiful valleys and scenery unsurpassed in the county. Notwithstanding the rough and hilly character of the land surface, Avoca is regarded as one of the first towns in the entire Conhocton valley in point of general fertility and productiveness; and during comparatively recent years an additional importance attaches to the town, for its villages and hamlets on the lines of railroad are shipping points of much note. Although very irregular, in surface and boundary, the 21,300 acres of land which comprise the town are in favorable comparison with any similarly situated division of historic Steuben.

Going back a hundred years and more the sole occupants of this part of the Conhocton valley were Indians, scattered fragments of the once powerful Iroquois tribes who were loth to leave their favorite resorts and fishing grounds, although the voice of the savage nation had spoken in favor of a sale of the land. Pioneers William and Michael Buchanan found a considerable Indian settlement in the valley in 1794, while as late as 1808, Abram Towner came and described from 50 to too lodges on the flat lands below his house. All settlers, early and late, referred to these occupants as a lazy, shiftless set, and occasionally inclined to create trouble, but about 1818 they had departed for the reservations generously provided for them by the State.

As we have stated, William Buchanan and his son Michael were the pioneers in this town, having been sent into this part of the then town of Bath in 1794. to open and maintain a public house for the entertainment of prospective settlers. These pioneers made various improvements, among them putting up a log inn and planting an orchard. From his settlement the locality became known as Buchanan's, although the name "Eight Mile Tree" was more suggestive of the distance from the settlement to the village at Bath. Following soon after the Buchanans, came James and Hugh McWhorter, James and George Moore, Gershom Townley and Finley McClure, all of whom were here previous to 1800, and who were active in clearing and improving the region in one direction and another. McClure was a farmer and opened a road from Kanona to his cabin home. Towner was an inn keeper and kept a resort of much fame in early days, and was noted for his generosity and hospitality.

The other early settlers who came to this region between the years 1801 and 1815, and were scattered over the entire district, were Abram Towner, Asa Phillips, James Babcock, Richard and John Van Buskirk, James Davis, Henry Smith, Daniel McKenzie, William Moody, Jonathan Tilton, John Donahue, Allen Smith, Samuel Burnham, Oliver Rice and Eleazor Tucker, all of whom settled in that part of the town which was set off from Bath.

The Howard contribution comprised Isaac Baldwin, William Allen, Timothy Parkhill, Charles Robords, Henry Kennedy and William Goff. Still later corners, yet worthy to be mentioned among the pioneers, were Gershorn Salmon, John B. Calkins, Joseph Matthewson, John Putnam, James Silsbee, Hugh Briggs, Van Heusen Hopkins and others. Being taken from older and prominent towns, Avoca has little to present in the way of important early events, yet it is said that William McWhorter and Michael Buchanan 2d, were the first children born; that Michael Buchanan died in 1801; that James McWhorter and the widow Buchanan were married in 1812; that in 1809 Henry Kennedy built the saw mill at the place called Goft's Mills, while Eleazur Tucker is credited with having built the first saw mill in the town, though at a now unknown date. William Goff built the first grist mill in 1812. Alonzo Simmons kept the first store. Tucker, above mentioned, built a saw mill on the river in 1825. Previous to 1812 there were but two teams of horses in the town. The first framed dwelling in Avoca was built by James McWhorter. Elders Buzzell and Elisha Brownson were the first preachers.

Such were the early events of town history in Avoca, but they took place long years before the town itself was formed or even contemplated. Settlement here was of much the same Character as in other parts of Bath and Howard; there were the same hardships and the same pleasures as attended pioneership elsewhere in the county. During the war of 1812-15, the same excitement existed here as lower down the valley, apd the immediate presence of the Indians occasioned a feeling of fear and uncertainty not experienced in some other localities. But the period passed without serious disturbance and the return of peace witnessed great strides in settlement and prosperity. A little later came the anti rent conflict, but this was the cause of not more than temporary embarrassment to local interests,

Settlement, growth and development in this part of Conhocton valley was so rapid that as years passed a new town was considered desirable, yet not until about 1840 was the subject seriously discussed; and still three years more passed before the older towns were called upon to yield portions of their territory to the new formation. Thus, when the organization was in fact effected the affairs of the locality were all in order, the hamlets had been built up and established, and the simple act of election of town officers was the only necessary thing to be accomplished.

The records show that the first town meeting was held at the house of James G, Barto, on May 12,1843, at which time these officers were elected: Henry A, Louck, supervisor; Jesse Louck, town clerk; Oliver Rice, Simeon Holmes, Luther Tilton, justices; John Donahe, John L. Robords, Marcus Peck, assessors; James Gorton, John Collier, John T, Allen, highway commissioners; Jonathan Silsbee and Abram Turner, overseers of the poor; Perry S, Donahe, collector.

In this connection it is also interesting to note the succession of supervisors from the time of organization to the present, viz.: Henry A. Loucks, 1843; George W. Burnham, 1844-48; Henry H, Bouton, 1849-52; Jos. I, Burnham, 1853; H, H, Bouton, 1854; Henry Goff 1855; Salmon Waterbury, 1856-57; Joel Carrington, 1858-59; Henry A. Loucks, 1860; A. M. Waterbury, 1861; J. H, Nicholson, 1862-63; Salmon H, Palmer, 1864-66; Joel Carrington, 1867-68; I, J, Haskin, 1869; S, E, Haskin, 1870; I. J. Haskin, 1871; F, N, Barney, 1872; I. J, Haskin, 1873; D. E. Hoadley, 1874; Thomas Cotton, 1895-76; N, B. Chase, 1877-80; Thomas Cotton, 1881-82; C, Patterson, 1883; Lawrence Saltsman, 1884; C. Patterson, 1885; Jerry Hall, 1886; A. J. Arnold, 1887-88; Lemuel Matthewson, 1889-90; A, J. Arnold, 1891-92; A, L, Ztelley, 1893-95,

The town officers for the year 1895 are Alex. L, Zielley, supervisor; J. L. Hunn, town clerk; George C. Silsbee, Thomas J. Redhead, George A, Fox and Ripley C. Oxx, justices; A. C. Wagner, Martin Brown and James Robinson, assessors; Joseph Ells, collector; Lyman Arnold, overseer of the poor; John E, Olmsted, highway commissioner; Orton Dye, Frank Shultz and Fred L, Peck (did not qualify) commissioners of excise,

When set off and organized in 1843, the inhabitants of Avoca numbered about 1,660, and, according to the enumeration of 1845, the number was 1,668. In 1850 it had fallen to 1,574, but during the succeeding ten years increased to 1,885, the greatest population in the history of the town to that time, In 1870 the number was 1,740, and in 1880 was 1,843 In 1890 Avoca contained 2,242 inhabitants, showing a somewhat surprising growth in the pretty little village of Avoca, a historical sketch of which will be found elsewhere in this work.

From what has been stated in this brief chapter it will be seen that the early and perhaps the most interesting history in this town was made while its territory formed a part of the older divisions from which it was created, Yet, notwithstanding this, it may truthfully be said that the greatest strides in advancement and prosperity have been made during the last half century, and many of them may be placed to the credit of the last twenty five years, The construction of the railroad (now the Erie) through Conhocton valley was the one event which above all others contributed to local welfare, and the more recent building of the D. L, & W, road only added to the progress then being made, and also stimulated the inhabitants to greater exertions, The result of local energy and thrift are apparent, for Avoca enjoys the pleasant reputation of being one of the best and most productive towns in all Steuben. It lies well within the "potato belt" and produces remarkably in that and also in general farm crops under careful attention This condition of things has built up and made Avoca village what it is, and the hamlets of the town have shared in the general prosperity,

The only event of general importance in the history of the town, outside of ordinary affairs, was the period of the war of 1861-65, during the terms of office of supervisors Waterbury, Nicholson and Palmer, all of whom were prominently identified with the "war measures" adopted and the hearty support accorded to all efforts of raising troops and creating bounty funds, During the war, Avoca sent into the service a total of one hundred and twenty three men, and exceeded her quota by a fair number, Of a truth it may be said that no town in the region displayed more patriotism or public spiritedness during that terrible four years than did Avoca, and none made more free and generous provision for the payment of bounties to recruits,

The early history of the schools of Avoca was a part of the record of the older towns and furnishes little of interest to this chapter. At the organization meeting, John B. Stevenson and John Conner were elected commissioners, and Charles W, C. Howard and Addison Niles inspectors of common schools. After the erection of the town its territory was regularly divided into new districts, formed to suit the convenience of the inhabitants, and these have been changed in later years as necessity required. As now constituted the town contains eleven school districts, and fifteen teachers are annually employed, During 1894, four hundred and sixty nine children attended school. The value of school property is estimated at $9,445. The town received of public moneys, $1,852.14, and raised by local tax $3,582,09. Four trees were planted during the year.

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